At the White House yesterday, Donald Trump announced the United States would be withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Here’s what you need to know…
After teasing it for weeks, President Donald Trump has finally announced that the US will be withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.
But why has he done it and what does it mean for peace in the world? Here’s your round up of everything you need to know…
What is the Iran nuclear deal?
The Iran nuclear deal, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was an agreement signed in 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 - the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.
Under the terms of the deal, Iran would agree to limit its nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for an end to economic sanctions.
You may remember that there had been years of tension over Iran’s nuclear programme and threats of nuclear war, so the Obama administration’s success in securing a deal was seen as a major diplomatic triumph by many around the world.
What has Trump announced?
In an 11-minute address from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House last night, Trump said: “It is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of this deal.
“The Iran deal is defective to its core.”
He added: “This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made. It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.”
The US Treasury is now set to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran, including on their oil sector.
Why has he announced it?
During the 2016 presidential election, Trump attacked the deal. According to Reuters, in a speech to the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC, Trump declared that his “Number-One priority” would be to “dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.”
And last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a dramatic presentation saying Israel has evidence that Iranian officials were “brazenly lying” about their nuclear programme, which may have had an impact on Trump’s latest decision.
It’s also true that Trump is now surrounded by a harder-line, much-more-hawkish foreign policy team with his new National Security Advisor John Bolton and the newly-appointed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
What’s been the reaction?
According to the BBC, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who is seen as a moderate reformist, said: “The US has announced that it doesn’t respect its commitments.
“I have ordered the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran to be ready for action if needed, so that if necessary we can resume our enrichment on an industrial level without any limitations.”
He added, however, that he would “wait a few weeks” to speak to allies. “If we achieve the deal’s goals in cooperation with other members of the deal, it will remain in place.”
Former president Barack Obama, meanwhile, called the move a “serious mistake.”
There are few issues more important to the security of the US than the potential spread of nuclear weapons or the potential for even more destructive war in the Middle East. Today’s decision to put the JCPOA at risk is a serious mistake. My full statement: https://t.co/4oTdXESbxe— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) May 8, 2018
All the remaining P5+1 countries issued statements voicing their criticism of the United States’ decision.
“Having a deal is better than no deal. Dialogue is better than confrontation,” China’s special envoy to the Middle East, Gong Xiaosheng, said in a press conference.
Should we be worried?
The main concern now is that elements in the Iranian government could push for a harder line in the ongoing Middle East conflicts – especially Syria and Yemen. The conflict between Iran, a Shia Muslim nation, and Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim nation, is at the centre of many of the disputes in the Middle East, so this destabilising move has the potential to inflame tensions even further.
Paul Ingram, Executive Director of the British American Security Information Council, told ShortList today: “Frankly, I’m still in shock, even though we knew it was coming. The brazen extreme language, I would be astonished if this didn’t lead to conflict.
“There are now a number of key questions that will determine the fate of the deal and peace in the Middle East. The EU has indicated it will stick by the deal, but how hard will the US go after European companies doing business in Iran? And how easy will it be for European companies to have confidence to do business when they are unsure how it will impact upon their ability to do business in the US?
“Trump’s decision will certainly depress trade, but it’s unclear yet by how much.”
He added: “This decision by Trump also raises the chances of strategic regional conflict, both by provoking reaction from Iran and by emboldening its adversaries.
“The President referred directly to the need to confront Iran now rather than in the future. And his address was consistent with the Israeli, Saudi and neo-conservative attitude that conflict is necessary and desirable.”
It’s worth remembering, however, that there were fears about Trump’s decision to move the US to embassy to Jerusalem, thereby recognising the city as Israel’s capital. But, other than plenty of outrage and protesting, there haven’t yet been major international consequences.
Finally, this decision could have an impact on the upcoming summit between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un. As political writer George Eaton pointed out, why would North Korea bother agreeing to a deal if it can be torn up a few years later?
Trump's destruction of the Iran nuclear deal gives North Korea rather less incentive to sign a similar agreement.— George Eaton (@georgeeaton) May 9, 2018